The Interface Between Oral Health and Complex Disease

Oral infections such as inflammatory periodontal disease have been associated with the pathogenesis of several important systemic diseases and conditions.

 Results from numerous case control and epidemiologic studies suggest that people with periodontal disease have a modestly higher risk for myocardial infarction when compared with people without periodontal disease.  Other studies have connected periodontal disease with adverse pregnancy outcomes, diabetes mellitus, Alzheimer’s disease, oral cancer, and various lung diseases such as pneumonia and chronic obstructive lung disease.  It appears that oral infection and inflammation may have a causal role in these other conditions.

This application proposes five targeted, coordinated faculty hires in the SDM (4) and the SMBS (1) that will greatly strengthen the University at Buffalo’s (UB) national and international role in understanding the interface between oral health and complex disease.  This in turn will lead to new approaches to predict, prevent, diagnose, and treat complex diseases.  The faculty will be hired in 3 key focus areas – oral host response, the salivary interface, and the oral microbiome – providing an outstanding opportunity for UB to expand and improve upon its current research strengths in oral/systemic health.

This initiative is fully aligned with the comprehensive mission of the SDM, which emphasizes both the broad role of oral health in overall wellness, and the necessity of establishing and maintaining close collaborative links with the other health science schools at UB, and with local hospitals, health care systems, and research institutes.  Further, this project is closely aligned with two UB Strategic Strengths (“Molecular Recognition in Biological Systems” and Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan”), and promises appreciable improvements to no less than 10 key AAU metrics – most notably in the areas of federal research expenditures, publications, and ladder faculty size.  This proposal is highly fiscally efficient, as it minimizes the recurring demands from the 3E Fund, while maximizing both unit matching (for faculty salaries and start-up) and recurring revenue from external grant funding.  Lastly, this proposal is timely in that there are several individuals with proven track records from other universities who have shown an interest in the faculty positions.

The importance of oral health to systemic health clearly warrants much further study, and tremendous research opportunities exist to explore the relationships outlined above.  There is also considerable federal funding available to support such research.  This area of study also presents many opportunities for collaborations between investigators in the SDM and School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (SMBS) and the Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy and Engineering, as well as investigators from hospitals, research institutes, and the private sector in the Buffalo-Niagara region.